Budget cuts forced on Langstone Harbour by Portsmouth and Havant Council representatives threaten the ability of Langstone Harbour Board to meet its statutory duty to look after and manage one of the best nature reserves in the Solent.
Valuable Nature Site
The Harbour is of exceptionally high ecological value and is the subject of local, national, European and international environmental designations. The Board has a general duty to exercise its functions with regard to nature conservation and other environmental considerations and in 1999 sought and achieved additional powers for these purposes through a Harbour Revision Order. The Board is also required to have regard to the requirements of the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives. As a Relevant Authority in the Solent European Marine Site (SEMS) the Board has a duty to monitor and report on activities in Langstone Harbour in order to comply with the requirements of these directives. In exercising its functions, the Board must also have regard to bio-diversity. A large part of the harbour bed, including a number of islands, is owned by the RSPB who employ a warden to manage the islands as a bird sanctuary.
How Langstone Works
Langstone Harbour is a Trust Port managed by a Harbour Board, assisted by a statutory Advisory Committee of local stakeholders.The Board is a Competent Harbour Authority under the Pilotage Act 1957 and a Local Lighthouse Authority. The harbour is recognised in the Langstone Harbour Management Plan as a quiet harbour and a place for relaxation and enjoyment by the public. The core functions of the Board include regulation of harbour activities, the provision of a pilotage service, provision of moorings, maintenance of navigable channels and navigation marks, wreck removal and emergency response. National standards of safety have been promoted by the Department for Transport in the Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC) and the accompanying Guide to Good Practice for Port MarineOperations. The Board achieves compliance with the PMSC through a Safety Management System which is audited annually.
The Board of 6 members each from Portsmouth City and Havant Borough Councils, 2 members of the statutory Advisory Committee and a representative from Hampshire County Council. Overall the harbour costs over £933,000 per year, funded by income from harbour dues, rent for moorings, licenses and other generaI services with any deficit in income over expenditure funded by a precept divided equally between Portsmouth and Havant councils The Board has since 2006 managed to reduce its reliance on the precept by 43% and at the budget meeting in December proposed a further reduction of 10% for the year 2013/14 However, an amendment was tabled by a Portsmouth member which, although initially objected to by a large majority of members (10 votes to 4), resulted ultimately in the Board being forced to accept a reduction in precept of 50% with the resulting annuaI shortfall of over £56,000 to be drawn from the Board’s reserves The three Portsmouth members supporting the 53% reduction of the precept have stated that the precept should be reduced to zero in the following year, apparently for the purpose of assisting the City Council to reduce its overall rate charged to the community In addition to the reduction in precept an independent service review is to be carried out [more expense] and the result discussed by a Joint working Party.
Hayling ferry threatened
Now it would seem that in accepting an appointment to the Board a member also accepts a duty to look after the interest of that board regardless of their other outside commitments. The reserves are largely nominated to fund the replacement of equipment as it becomes unserviceable For example the Hayling pontoon may need replacement within 5 years and with no reserves there will be no pontoon and no ferry service, since the existing structure will by then be unsafe for the public to use
Difficult meet statutory duties
With no harbour patrol boats there can be no protection of the habitat or enforcement of the regulations. Most of the Board’s cost are in wages so the only solution is to sack most of the staff. With very few staff the Board will find it almost impossible to meet it obligations stated above. Failure to comply with EU Directives can be a very expensive business as indeed could failure to meet the requirement of the Port Marine Safety Code Who will pay for that?